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 NUCLEAR ENERGY CAUSES A LOT OF REACTIONS

 

WHAT IS A NUCLEAR REACTOR?

As opposed to a nuclear bomb, in which the chain reaction occurs uncontrolled in a fraction of a second causing an explosion, a nuclear reactor is a device in which nuclear chain reactions are initiated, controlled, and sustained at a steady rate.


 
 

THE FIRST NUCLEAR REACTOR

In the year 1942, at the University of Chicago, the first artificial, self-sustaining, nuclear chain reaction was initiated under the supervision of the Italian physicist Enrico Fermi, in collaboration with Leo Szilard, the discoverer of the chain reaction. He called it Chicago Pile-1 and so the world had it's first artificial nuclear reactor.
Today, not even three thirds of a century later, more than 15% of the electricity used on our planet comes from nuclear power. We have nuclear power plants, atomic bombs and rockets and nuclear-powered naval vessels. But the amount of protest calls against nuclear energy has also increased over the last decades.


 
 

SO, WHAT EXACTLY IS A CHAIN REACTION?

Fission chain reactions occur because of interactions between neutrons and fissile isotopes (such as 235U). The chain reaction requires both the release of neutrons from fissile isotopes undergoing nuclear fission and the subsequent absorption of some of these neutrons in fissile isotopes. When an atom undergoes nuclear fission, a few neutrons (the exact number depends on several factors) are ejected from the reaction. These free neutrons will then interact with the surrounding medium, and if more fissile fuel is present, some may be absorbed and cause more fissions. Thus, the cycle repeats to give a reaction that is self-sustaining.

Nuclear power plants operate by precisely controlling the rate at which nuclear reactions occur, and that control is maintained through the use of several redundant layers of safety measures. Moreover, the materials in a nuclear reactor core and the uranium enrichment level make a nuclear explosion impossible, even if all safety measures failed. On the other hand, nuclear weapons are specifically engineered to produce a reaction that is so fast and intense it cannot be controlled after it has started. When properly designed, this uncontrolled reaction can lead to an explosive energy release. (source: Wikipedia)


 
 

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www.energiewirtschaft.eu
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  THE ATOMIC AGE

 a chain of reactions


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